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Thursday, 7 June 1928

Mr LATHAM (Kooyong) (AttorneyGeneral) . - If the offence is of a trivial nature any court already has the power which the honorable member for Fawkner desires to be given.

Mr Watkins - Who is to determine whether an offence is of a trivial nature?

Mr LATHAM - The magistrate before whom the case is brought; but the honorable member for Fawkner does not suggest that the provision should be limited to offences of a trivial nature.

Mr Maxwell - No.

Mr LATHAM - If the offence is not of a trivial nature, there should be a conviction and a penalty. One has not only to consider the organization but also the enforcement of the law for the prevention of strikes and lockouts. When a person has been placed in a positionof responsibility by an organization-

Mr Maxwell - Apart from this statute, it is a remote responsibility.

Mr LATHAM - The officers or members of a committee of an organization are the only persons authorized to act in an executive capacity on its behalf. It is therefore the duty of organizations which, by registering under the act, have chosen arbitration as a means of settling their disputes, not to appoint to positions of responsibility men likely to incite others to take part in a strike. The members of a committee of an organization ought to know that that is their obligation, and that the organization, too, is responsible for such a breach of the act. If the offence is of a trivial nature, it may be dismissed by the magistrate before whom it is brought, in accordance with the ordinary procedure provided for in all the States.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - But the imposition of a penalty is mandatory under sections 6 and 6a.

Mr LATHAM - Not more so than under any other sections creating offences. Whenever it is proved to the satisfaction of the magistrate that the offence charged is a trivial one, the case may be dismissed.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Who is charged with the responsibility of policing this measure ?

Mr LATHAM - The honorable member is leading me far afield. Under this measure inspectors are to be appointed, and the act ought to be policed in much the same way . as the shops and factories acts in the States. If the committee adopts the proposals of the Government it is hoped to make arrangements whereby the services of State officers, so far as they are available, may be utilized for the purpose.

Mr Makin - Is it intended to exclude union officials?

Mr LATHAM - There is no such provision in the bill. In addition to the power of a magistrate to dismiss a charge which the evidence shows to be trivial, proposed new section 6b, which has been passed by the committee, provides -

Where an organization has been found guilty of any offence against section 6 or section 6a of this act, the court before which it has been found guilty shall, in fixing the penalty to be imposed in respect of the offence, take into account any bona fide efforts which the organization satisfies the court have been made by members of its committee of management, or by any of its officers, to prevent the commission of an offence against this part of this act.

If an endeavour were made to give effect, to the suggestion of the honorable member for Fawkner, it would be difficult to find satisfactory language in which to express it, owing to the difficulty of determining the act or attitude of the organization itself as distinct from the act or attitude of members of the committee of management, or of other officers. Provision has already been made for taking into account the actions of members of a committee of management and officers, and it would be difficult to provide for them as distinct from something that may be described as the actions of the organization itself. I suggest that provision has already been made to meet the case, and that it is unnecessary to make ' any further provision.

Mr Maxwell - Would it not simply mean giving the court power, instead of weighing the facts advanced in mitigation of the penalty, to go further, and to say that they warrant the dismissal of the case?

Mr LATHAM - That can be done now in trivial cases, and I submit that it ought not to be done in any others. One has to consider the effect of a strike upon the community as a whole. If an organization, registered under this act, which has been framed for the preservation of industrial peace, places a person in a position of responsibility and be incites a strike, the organization, prima facie, has been guilty of a breach of the act, and it is proper that the organization should bear the responsibility in such a way as the court may determine, subject, of course, to the provisions of 6a. In a trivial case, the magistrate could decide not to record a conviction.

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